The close of 2017 brings with it the opportunity to reflect on this first year of the Trump Administration—the attacks on the rule of law, the unprecedented resistance, and the hope for a way forward. One campaign promise President Trump has managed to keep is the appointment of a Supreme Court Justice. While Justice Neil Gorsuch testified that he made no indications as to how he would rule in any case, Trump’s campaign promises included Supreme Court appointees who would overturn Roe v. Wade, undermining the Constitutional protection for the right to decide whether to continue a pregnancy, and—he apparently believed—paving the way for states to enact “some form of punishment” for people who have abortions.
by Chris Edelson, assistant professor of government, American University School of Public Affairs
For much of American history, legal rules and cultural norms have deemed women unworthy of trust or responsibility. The law often treated women as children, incapable of carrying out adult duties. Women did not have the right to vote until 1920. It took until 1961 for the Supreme Court to strike down laws automatically excluding women from jury duty. Until 1979, state laws made it legally impossible for a husband to rape his wife. In the early 19th century, the doctrine of “coverture” provided that a married woman did not have legal status separate from her husband. In the eyes of the law, married women were not their own person. Women were barred—by law or by practice—from professions like law, medicine, and politics.
We like to think those days are long behind us, that women are no longer second-class citizens relegated to a separate, lesser sphere. But it may be difficult, especially for men, to recognize the ways in which significant problems linger.
by Amy Myrick, Staff Attorney for Judicial Strategy, Center for Reproductive Rights
It had to happen: an administration seeking to remake the Constitution into a rubber stamp for rights violations found the place where abortion and immigration converge. In a federally contracted shelter in Texas, an unaccompanied 17-year-old immigrant who did not want to be pregnant waited over a month while federal officials relentlessly blocked her from receiving an abortion. Jane Doe was forced to endure what ultimately became a grueling spectacle and multiple court hearings before she could access what has long been a protected constitutional right in the United States.
The government’s argument in this recent case, Garza v. Hargan, is glaringly unconstitutional. Under a line of cases starting with Roe v. Wade (1973), and ending with Whole Woman’s Heath v. Hellerstedt (2016), it’s settled law that the Constitution protects the right to access abortion, and the government cannot place a “substantial obstacle” in the path of a woman - adult or minor - seeking to exercise that right. Whether claiming to advance the government’s preference for childbirth or its view of what is in a pregnant minor’s “best interests,” or both, the government has no authority to unilaterally block a woman’s access to abortion. But in the Garza case, the government did just that.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has a perplexingly contradictory view of civil rights law when it comes to transgendered people.
On the one hand, he is enthusiastic about prosecuting murder cases in which the victims were allegedly targeted because of their gender identity. On the other hand, he went out of his way to give employers a green light to discriminate against transgender people in the workplace; rejected the Obama administration interpretation that nondiscrimination laws require schools to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms of their choice; and defended Donald Trump's half-baked tweet in favor of banning transgender troops.
The backtracks on transgender protections are among several stark and abrupt reversals from practices during the Obama era that have come under Sessions's watch. One on level, that's not so surprising, coming from the attorney general for a president who on Monday described himself, accurately, as "very opposite" from his predecessor.
*This piece is part of the ACSblog Symposium: 2017 ACS National Convention. The symposium will consider topics featured at the three day convention, scheduled for June 8-10, 2017. Learn more about the Convention here.
by Jamille Fields, Policy Analyst, Government Relations at Planned Parenthood Federation of America
We are not long past President Trump’s first 100 days and the start of this new Congress. Despite this short timeframe, there have been several legal and policy proposals that threaten reproductive rights and women’s health care access more broadly. Here are six ways in which reproductive rights have been threatened since the start of this year alone:
1.Attempting to Block Access to Planned Parenthood
The American Health Care Act (AHCA) not only attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which greatly advances women’s health care, but also includes a politically motivated provision that would block low-income women and men enrolled in the Medicaid program from using their coverage to receive services at Planned Parenthood. This provision is the only non-health insurance related provision in the bill and the intent is clear--restrict low-income individuals’ access to the provider of their choice and block people’s access to safe and legal abortion. If the bill becomes law, it will harm the 2.5 million people who annually visit Planned Parenthood health centers to access birth control, cancer screenings, STI counseling, HIV treatment and other preventive health care services. Unlike most other parts of the bill, this provision would take effect immediately.